Relationships / Virtual Counseling
Elementary School Anxiety and How to Set Yourself up for Success
Elementary school is one of the most exciting times of childhood; your child may be headed into Kindergarten, or they could be gearing up for another year filled with its own challenges, triumphs and memorable moments. Watching your child grow can be bittersweet, and with the coronavirus pandemic underway, sending your elementary school student back to school can be downright terrifying.
Anxiety is a normal and often healthy part of parenthood; it causes you to step back, pay closer attention and be proactive. But it can also hinder your ability to promote healthy independence and resilience in your child. To combat the anxiety and stress of another school year, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Put Safety First
Schools that are reopening for the new year will likely have safety measures in place. Your child may be required to wear a face mask during the day, which could be met with some discomfort or resistance. Talk about the importance of wearing a mask; tell your child they have an important role to play, and wearing a mask helps them protect themselves as well as their teachers and friends.
Practice wearing a mask in extended durations before school resumes, and teach your child how to properly wash their hands and apply hand sanitizer. To make the new safety measures a little less scary, get your child involved by letting them pick out a mask with a fun design.
Placing masks on their favorite stuffed animals can be a good way to introduce the concept and make it more approachable for a child.
Parents and students can both experience anxiety when it’s time to go back to school. Combat this as early as possible by building excitement around the first day and upcoming year. Listen to your child’s worries, and offer reassurance. Rather than saying, “Don’t be worried,” tell them that it’s okay to be nervous, and everyone feels afraid of new things sometimes.
As a parent, your anxiety may be palpable to your child, which makes coping with it on your own time imperative. You don’t want to transfer any fears into your elementary schooler; therapy is one way to work through your fears, but speaking with your partner, journaling and talking with parents can help, too.
Isolation is difficult for anyone, but children are impacted tenfold by their social engagement at school. Your child may have been placed in a new classroom this year and not be with any of their friends; you may have images of them eating alone, getting picked last for gym or recess and standing on the sidelines. This is a natural part of growing up that, although difficult, is important to your child’s growth.
Not having any friends in class might be scary at first, but it’s a chance for them to develop social skills and learn how to cope with discomfort. Read books about making new friends, roleplay with toys and assure your child they can still connect with their old friends online and outside of the classroom.
We are not sure how the virus will impact the new school year; it’s best to speak with your child now and let them know things may change throughout the year. Plan ahead by talking about closures, what they mean and how your child will have to learn if the school does need to shut down temporarily. Let them know that school closing doesn’t mean they can’t talk to their friends or teachers.
As a parent, the best thing you can do is try to find as much flexibility as possible. In addition to looking after your own mental health, it helps to come up with a plan for childcare and education in the event of another closure. You may never have to use it, but thinking about potential solutions now can help lower anxiety by reducing “what ifs.”